What is the nature of the mass movement against Netanyahu’s government?

Yossi Schwartz ISL (RCIT section in Israel/Occupied Palestine), 24.06.2024

Tens of thousands of protesters waving Israeli flags and chanting slogans against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government have rallied in Tel Aviv, demanding new elections and the return of hostages held in Gaza. Anti-government protest organization Hofshi Israel estimated more than 150,000 people attended the rally, calling it the biggest since Tel Aviv launched a war on Gaza.

The organization “Free in our country” claims that Israel is a democracy under attack by Netanyahu’s government.

“We are determined to counter the Netanyahu government’s efforts to transform Israel into an authoritarian country by attacking the judiciary, the media, the opposition, the gatekeepers, and civil society.

The steps we are fighting to stop include eliminating the independent judiciary, seizing control over public and private media, politicizing the civil service and law enforcement arms, undermining the rights of minorities, women, and LGBTQ+, imposing strict religious norms, cutting back basic civil rights, Seizing control of the election process, undermining academic freedom and more. We will not let that happen”.[i]

In the demonstration, the former chief of the Shien Beth gave a speech in which he said:

“For many weeks, I rejected requests to join the protests. Something deep inside me told me that it wasn’t time yet, that maybe it wasn’t right to change governments during a war, and that unity was the most important thing.

But  I find myself amazed, every day by the government’s uselessness the failed management of the war, the lie of total victory, the total evasion of responsibility, the destruction of our strategic relations with the United States, and perhaps most of all, missing every opportunity to return our kidnapped brothers and sisters, who continue to languish in the Hamas captivity in Gaza”.[ii]

A journalist of the Jerusalem Post writes:

“Israel is seething, and it has been seething since October 7.

Truth be told, it was seething for months before October 7 – just think back to the judicial reform debate. But that was different. The seething then pitted two parts of the population against one another – those for the reform and those against it, with extremists on each side accusing the other of betraying and trying to destroy the country.

Then, on October 7, and every day since, representatives of those two warring camps met and continued to meet inside IDF APCs and tanks, in makeshift barracks in Khan Yunis, and in tents along the northern border. There, they discovered they were not enemies.

Together, they fought, and continue to fight, heroically against the country’s true enemies, those in Gaza, Lebanon, and Iran who want to destroy the entire Jewish state – including both those for judicial reform and those against it.

The seething today is of a different sort.

Since October 7, the country is seething against the government responsible for the greatest single failure in the state’s history, against the military leadership responsible for leaving the country stark naked in the face of murderous barbarians, against the politicians who sowed divisions that invited Hamas’s outrageous attack; against the media for amplifying those extreme voices of division; against the world for its hypocrisy; against anyone and everyone for the country’s inability to free the hostages” [iii]

If the goal is to bring about a change of leadership and to bring out masses of people to put pressure on the government so it goes to new elections, then the organizers should not want to have personalities such as former prime minister Ehud Barak, former defense minister Moshe Ya’alon, former Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) director Yuval Diskin, Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid, or author David Grossman as cheerleaders.

 These individuals are so strongly associated with antipathy toward Netanyahu that they risk alienating potential supporters who don’t share their animus. Many people believe the government needs to change, not because they view Netanyahu as evil or accuse him of sacrificing hostages to retain power. Rather, they have legitimate concerns: Netanyahu’s inability to make strategic decisions due to political constraints, the belief that a government responsible for the October 7 failure cannot continue to serve, and the immorality of exempting haredim from military service while the backs of reservists and their families are breaking under an onerous burden.”[iv]

The alternative to Netanyahu is Bennett, who was already the PM of Israel.

More Israelis believe former premier Naftali Bennett is better suited to be prime minister than incumbent Benjamin Netanyahu, the first time he has overtaken Israel’s longest-serving leader in a head-to-head matchup, according to a Friday television poll.

Bennett has been out of office since announcing he was leaving politics following the 2022 collapse of his diverse coalition government, which ousted Netanyahu from the premiership a year earlier after 12 consecutive years and unprecedented political turmoil that included four national elections in three years. However, he has recently hinted at making a comeback, as Netanyahu’s grip on power appears increasingly shaky amid the ongoing war sparked by Hamas’s October 7 attack and as his coalition is torn over contentious legislative proposals backed by his ultra-Orthodox allies”.

When asked whom they preferred for the role of prime minister, 36 percent of respondents to the Channel 12 news survey said Bennett, 28% Netanyahu, and 31% neither, while the remainder did not know”[v].

And who is Bennet? According to Britannica:

“Naftali Bennett (born March 25, 1972, in Haifa, Israel) is an Israeli high-tech entrepreneur and politician who served as Israel’s prime minister (2021–22).

While performing draft duty in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) in the 1990s, Bennett served in Sayeret Matkal and Maglan, elite commando units that operate behind enemy lines. He then pursued a degree in law at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. The son of American immigrants to Israel, Bennett left Israel for New York and co-founded an anti-fraud software company in 1999. In 2005 he sold the company for $145 million and returned to Israel.

Political rise

Bennett’s political career began in 2006 when he was hired as the chief of staff of Benjamin Netanyahu, then leader of the opposition in the Knesset (parliament). In 2009, the same year Netanyahu was elected prime minister, Bennett took a break from the political sphere to lead an Israel-based company. But after the United States pressured Israel to freeze construction of Israeli settlements in the West Bank in late 2009, Bennett was appointed in 2010 as director general of the Yesha Council, an organization representing those settlements and their populations. He led a pressure campaign against the freeze, which ended in September 2010, and continued in this role until 2012.

In late 2012, as Israel prepared for polls set for early 2013, Bennett was elected to lead the religious right-wing Jewish Home party. His relatively young age and fresh ideas helped steer the minor party to a historic victory: winning 12 seats, it became the fourth largest party in the Knesset, just behind the Labour Party, with 15 seats. His campaign had touted his so-called Stability Initiative, a proposed solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that centered on Israeli annexation of Area C (areas of the West Bank under interim Israeli civil and security control). The controversial plan, which drew attention to Bennett but never gained steam, rejected a two-state solution outright and would restrict most Palestinians in the West Bank to urban enclaves. Upon joining the Knesset, Bennett entered Netanyahu’s coalition and received several cabinet portfolios over the following years.

As Israel prepared for elections set for April 2019, Bennett formed the New Right party, a right-wing party intended to appeal to both secular and religious Jews. The new party failed to win seats in the Knesset, but the inability of the new Knesset to form a government led to its dissolution only months later. He re-entered the Knesset later that year after forming Yamina (“Toward the Right”), an electoral list that included small religious right-wing parties, including Jewish Home.

In March 2021 the fourth general election in two years left Bennett as kingmaker. After Yair Lapid, leader of the centrist party Yesh Atid, received the mandate to form a government in May, Bennett joined a coalition with him that included a broad spectrum of left- and right-wing parties seeking to unseat Netanyahu, who had been indicted on criminal corruption charges. The coalition agreement, reached in June with a bare majority in the Knesset, allowed Bennett to become Israel’s prime minister in a two-year rotation with Lapid.

As prime minister, Bennett faced the challenge of maneuvering amid the delicate and heterogeneous coalition. Among his first tests was the erection of a new settlement outpost in the West Bank: the alliance was starkly divided over whether the state should authorize or dismantle it. Bennett agreed with the settlers to vacate the outpost voluntarily and return later under state sanction, thus avoiding a decision that would immediately cause the coalition to collapse. He later pushed through legislation that would invest more than $9 billion in Arab communities, appeasing a key demand of a party in the coalition that represented the interests of Palestinian citizens of Israel. In November 2021, the government passed its first budget since 2018, a crucial hurdle that indicated the coalition’s ability to cooperate. Still, sudden political tensions, such as those that followed a fatal shooting in Jerusalem by a member of Hamas that same month, underscored the potential of unexpected crises to derail the coalition.

The coalition faced defection in April 2022, ultimately from Bennett’s own party. The coalition’s chairwoman, Idit Silman, joined the opposition after the left-wing health minister upheld a court ruling that permitted the entrance of leavened foodstuffs (chametz) into hospitals during Passover, a Jewish holiday in which leaven is prohibited. Her statement cited frustration with the unity government and her desire for a right-wing government that would preserve a “Jewish identity” in public institutions.

Now deprived of a majority in the Knesset, Bennett’s government found it difficult to pass legislation when the parliamentary body reconvened in May from its Passover recess. In June, it was unable to muster enough votes to renew an emergency regulation in place since the Six-Day War (1967), which provided for Israeli settlements in the West Bank to be governed under civil rather than military administration. With chaos in the legal system imminent if the regulation were allowed to lapse, Bennett moved to dissolve the Knesset and call early elections, yielding the prime minister’s office to Lapid per the conditions of the coalition agreement. The dissolution, which rendered the Knesset unable to respond to emergencies, allowed the automatic extension of emergency regulations until elections could lead to a new government. Meanwhile, Bennett announced that he would not run in the next elections”.

Down with the Zionist state!

For Palestine, red and free from the river to the sea!


[i] https://hofshi-israel.co.il/en/

[ii] https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/middle-east/thousands-rally-in-israel-demanding-new-elections-and-return-of-hostages/articleshow/111199700.cms?utm_source=contentofinterest&utm_medium=text&utm_campaign=cppst.. &http://timeso findia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/111199700.cms?utm_source=contentofinterest&utm_medium=text&utm_campaign=cppst..

[iii] HERB KEINON Jerusalem Post JUNE 23, 2024

[iv] Ibid

[v] https://www.britannica.com/biography/Naftali-Bennett

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